In late August, I took a personal field trip to the US Botanic Garden, located on The Mall in downtown DC. It had been a while since I visited. The National Garden has grown in since its early days and was the site of lots of cleanup work the day I was there, so I didn’t photograph it. But the areas around the entrance to the building were awash with beautiful, full late-summer plantings, both in beds and containers, including those planted as an extension of the garden’s “Amber Waves of Grain” exhibit (which remains up through October 13). Hope you enjoy the photos!
Posted tagged ‘containers’
It’s high summer. Hot as you know what. Here in the metro DC area, gardens are starting to struggle (including mine). So recently I decided to venture out to Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria VA, a Fairfax County public garden known for its great plantings (as well as its excellent educational offerings for gardeners). I wanted to see what was blooming, or otherwise looking good, despite the challenging summer climate. Here’s what I found – an impressive mix of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. If you live in the area, take a road trip for yourself!
Garden Shoots will be on vacation until after Labor Day. See you in September!
A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a week in Cuba with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. I went to see Cuba before (as one of our group members put it) “there’s a Starbucks on every corner.” It was an incredible trip, and I’m already planning to return next year if I can.
I didn’t go to photograph gardens, and the photos I took for the most part fell into other themes – architecture, people, cultural events, and the city itself. More of those images later. But to my surprise, there were plants and parks everywhere. Plants on balconies in pots. Lushly planted pocket/plaza parks. Bougainvillea growing up the sides of buildings. And in some cases, ferns sprouting out of cracks in the facades of some of the older, crumbling but still magnificent edifices that serve as businesses or in-town tenement apartments. While I work on my other images (too many!), here are a few photos of green spaces in Havana.
In July I headed to the Bay Area for a few days, camera in hand, to visit one of my sons. I had one full day, and several mornings, to devote to photography in and around where I was staying – the Union Square area of San Francisco. Yup, near all those “little cable cars.”
I was planning primarily to shoot architectural sights while there (and some of those will be featured in a later post). Imagine my surprise when right outside my door was an innovative landscape project by Walter Hood, the Powell Street Promenade.
Underwritten by Audi at a cost of $890,000, the Promenade consists of eight six-foot-wide “parklets,” carved out of traffic lanes and abutting the sidewalk. Given the huge numbers of tourists travelling Powell Street on a regular basis, having an attractive, protected spot to step out of the flow of people and chat with friends, sit down for a bit, or park your bike while you make a call or stop in a store is a great idea.
There are a few built-in benches, which always seemed in high demand.
All of the structures are fabricated from aluminum, which forms “rail ribbons.” They include planters with narrow borders that can double as a seating area in a pinch (I recognized a few plants such as Mexican heather and Yucca, others were not familiar to my East Coast eyes), guardrails to protect against the busy Powell Street traffic, and the “tables” and lower versions that Hood has suggested could be used for sleeping as well as sitting benches. No advertising is allowed in the areas, which boast free Wi-Fi. (How very Silicon Valley!)
For more details on this project, check out this blog post from the San Francisco outpost of Streetsblog. And the next time you’re in the City by the Bay, in the vicinity of Union Square, be sure not to miss this innovative design feature on Powell Street!
Last week, on my way to LPI from an early client appointment, I made a quick pit stop at American University’s campus. Although this time of year there are fewer students in residence than usual, the plantings, designed by AU’s resident Landscape Architect H. Paul Davis and his colleagues, looked stunning. I wanted to share a few with you, taken with my Canon G11, before I take August off to re-charge my creative juices. (I’ll also be getting to know my new computer, which finally arrived this week after the old one died over four weeks ago.)
So enjoy the photos, and take a trip to AU (4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW in the District) if you’re in the area.
Garden Shoots will be on vacation until September. See you then!
A couple of years ago, I was hired by some new clients who were moving from a large house in the suburbs (with lots of deer) to a new house within walking distance of downtown Bethesda, Maryland, close to our firm’s offices. The lot was narrow and the front faced west. Most of the front yard was going to be taken up by a large two-car-wide driveway, and the husband wanted a shade tree to replace one that had been taken down. The wife wanted an ornamental tree, but she also wanted to be able to grow herbs and vegetables, something that hadn’t been possible in her other garden because of the deer. I proposed including some raised beds in the front yard because there simply wasn’t enough sun in the back garden, and she agreed.
So here’s the plan I came up with. I needed them to be as unobtrusive as possible, and far enough away from the street so that passers-by wouldn’t be tempted to pick tomatoes or nip off a few herbs.
See the three rectangles on the right property line, in the center of the yard? Those are the three raised beds, about 4′ x 3′ each. Stepping stones allow access to the beds for maintenance, and we planted Mazus reptans between them.
To dress up the beds, especially since this was a front yard, I had them constructed of high-quality cedar, and used M-Brace brackets on each corner.
By now you see where this is headed. We didn’t want the beds to sit empty all winter, just waiting for warm weather to be planted with veggies and herbs. So we planted pansies and tulips, and voila! A wonderful effect was created.
The homeowners were delighted.
The Mazus has filled in nicely, and recently we added some Knockout roses in a little row at the front of the beds. No more deer to worry about! (Now if we could just do something about the rabbits that are devouring the liriope in the tree beds . . . .)
As I’ve confessed before, container planting isn’t my strong suit. Occasionally I get a burst of inspiration, but more often I consult my colleague Kripa here at Landscape Projects, who is a genius when it comes to putting together gorgeous pots. Here’s a sample, for a shady garden, which she created recently primarily using annuals we already had on hand.
I love the simplicity and elegance of this design, created for a client who prefers only white flowers (with a touch of blue permitted – see the next photo). The backdrop is a Boston fern from a ten-inch hanging basket (not hardy in the garden but gorgeous for summer), accented by Caladium ‘Ghost’ in front. White Scaevola and chartreuse Ipomaea ‘Sweet Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine) round out the composition. All the plants are shade-tolerant. In a matching container not far from this one, white begonias joined the party, but I didn’t get a good shot of that one – it was in a sunnier area and the light wasn’t good. But trust me, it was just as beautiful.
In another part of the garden, Kripa played a variation on the white and green theme, adding just a touch of blue Lobelia.
In addition to the Lobelia, she used Caladium ‘Candidum,’ Swedish ivy, white impatiens, some golden creeping Jenny, and Ipomaea ‘Blackie.’ Oh yes, and another Boston fern (smaller this time). The client was thrilled – instant elegance and beauty, and all she has to do is water!
Of course, you can bring color into your shady area containers or back yard with annuals like coleus. Last summer I had a container on my deck where I took that approach, which I wrote about here. Of course, these were in the sun, but they would have worked in the shade as well with maybe just a few adjustments to the coleus I used.
This year, my own containers have been mixed – I now have so much sun in the front yard that I need to re-think my front step containers. But I did manage to create one back-yard container about a month ago that is working well so far. It began with a trip to Home Depot, where I was looking for light bulbs but instead had the great good fortune to find some unusual looking caladiums. I added a self-seeded ‘Lady in Red’ fern (Athyrium felix-femina ‘Lady in Red’) from one part of the garden, stole some variegated Carex (sedge grass) from another part of the yard, and voila:
What’s that lovely caladium named, I’m sure many of you want to know? So do I. The plant tag just said, “Shade plant.” On my way to my car two other gardeners stopped me and wanted to know its name and where I’d gotten it, but I had bought the only two on the shelf. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there when you’re decorating a shade garden. I may not have Kripa’s talent, but I think I made up for it in sheer luck.
Update: Jen’s comment below prompted me to do some Internet research. The full Latin name of a caladium is apparently Caladium x hortulanum, but with a little sleuthing I discovered my find is a variety called ‘Cranberry Star.’ My thanks to Jen, for spurring me to work a little harder. Now if I can only replicate my luck next year!